MANILA - A court on Friday issued a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) against Apo Land to cease and desist from engaging in quarry operations within its tenement areas in Naga City, Cebu for 72 hours.
Regional Trial Court Branch 65 in Naga City issued the TEPO on the basis of the city's disaster management office assessment last Oct. 31, which found new cracks in the Apo Land's quarry site that endanger four more barangays: Naalad, Inuburan, Mainit, and Cabungahan.
The TEPO was issued a day after a class suit was filed by 39 families who were victims of the Naga City landslide in Barangay Tinaan last Sep. 20.
The petitioners sought P4.2 billion in damages for the lives and properties lost during the tragedy, and for community rehabilitation.
The suit also seeks the halt of quarry operations in Naga City and other parts of Cebu.
The complaint was filed against Cemex Holdings Philippines Incorporated, Apo Land and Quarry Corporation, Apo Cement Corporation, Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office 7, City Government of Naga, and Province of Cebu.
The summary hearing is set on Nov. 14 to determine whether the TEPO will be extended until the termination of the case.
The Naga City landslide, triggered by heavy rains, claimed 78 lives and injured 18 residents of Sitio Sindulan.
In a statement, Apo Land and Quarry Corporation said it respects "the rights of those who filed the case to seek judicial relief from the landslide incident."
"We find it very unfortunate, however, that personalities behind this action decided to pursue this case despite the clear finding of DENR technical experts that the landslide is a natural phenomenon and not caused by quarry or mining operations of APO Land & Quarry Corporation," the statement read.
"The experts who conducted the investigation have concluded that the incident was unique and may happen in other areas and even without quarry operations."
It said the incident "was beyond anyone’s control and impacted the entire community, including ourselves and our stakeholders."
"We want to assure the government and the people of Naga that we will continue in our efforts to help in restoring normalcy in the community and in mitigating the existing risks attendant to the geologic hazards in the affected areas," it said.
The firm said its operations "have been compliant with all pertinent laws, rules, and regulations" and added that it will be exploring legal remedies.
--Report from Carine Era Asutilla Lapid, ABS-CBN News